March 05, 2018
Talk of negotiating our immigration rules with the EU ventures on dangerous ground. That is the conclusion of a paper being issued by Migration Watch UK.
The Prime Minister's remark to Andrew Marr on Sunday that we would “negotiate our immigration rules with the EU” must be put into context. This is a worrying shift in direction as the government have already indicated that UK immigration policy will be decided by the British government. There are a number of aspects where ease of access is important to both sides and where negotiation is hardly necessary – for example ease of access for tourists, visitors and business visitors. It would be sufficient in these cases to agree on visa free access. Something similar would be needed for students.
The key, however, is the extent of continued access for EU workers, 80% of whom have come to fill lower paid jobs. This inflow must be sharply reduced and there can be no question of our negotiating away the hard-won opportunity to do so. Migration Watch UK has proposed cutting the inflow for lower-skilled work through the introduction of highly-skilled work permits very similar to those now applied to non EU workers. Such changes must not be a matter for negotiation but must be for decision by the British Government.
Net migration from the EU almost halved last year but, even so, 90,000 more migrants arrived than left. This number could easily rise again when current uncertainties are resolved and if youth unemployment continues to be very high in the EU. The EU-born workforce is higher than before the referendum and the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK remains at near record levels, according to ONS labour market statistics released last month.
Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:
Brexit is a golden opportunity. A sharp reduction in EU migration must be the reddest of red lines. Concern about the scale of EU immigration was a major factor in the outcome of the referendum and it must be respected.
The UK remains the most popular country among Europeans looking to work abroad, according to a survey by the job site ‘Indeed’.
In principle, the EU should have no grounds for objecting to UK arrangements focused on attracting the highly skilled as they are in the process of refining and expanding their “Blue Card” system for highly skilled workers from outside the EU. See our paper ‘Arrangements for skilled Britons seeking to work in the European Union after Brexit’, April 2017.
An ICM poll conducted last year suggests that 64% of those surveyed support a reduction in low-skilled migration from the EU,